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Australia consumer confidence jumps to highest since 2013: survey

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A measure of Australian consumer sentiment jumped to its highest since late 2013 in July amid growing optimism on the economic outlook and on the prospect of future promised tax cuts.

[SYDNEY] A measure of Australian consumer sentiment jumped to its highest since late 2013 in July amid growing optimism on the economic outlook and on the prospect of future promised tax cuts.

A Melbourne Institute and Westpac Bank survey of 1,200 people published on Wednesday showed its index of consumer sentiment climbed 3.9 per cent in July from June, when it rose 0.3 per cent.

The index was up 9.8 per cent on July last year at 106.1, meaning optimists clearly outnumbered pessimists.

The survey was conducted in the week when consumers heard that the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) held its cash rates at a record low 1.50 per cent for a 23rd straight month.

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It also followed a pledge by the Liberal National government to cut income taxes by A$140 billion over the next seven years, though much of the gains are back-loaded.

"The consumer mood showed a clear improvement in July, driven by growing optimism about the economy," said Westpac senior economist Matthew Hassan.

Its measure of economic conditions for the next 12 months climbed 3.9 per cent and that for the next five years surged 9.8 per cent.

Measures of family finances also improved, though more modestly. The index of family finances compared to a year ago rose 2.3 per cent, and the outlook for the next 12 months picked up by 2.1 per cent.

The index of whether it was a good time to buy a major household item edged up only 1.7 per cent, pointing to continued caution on spending.

"It is still 3 per centage points below its long run average and well below the levels associated with buoyant spending conditions," noted Mr Hassan.

Consumers were also guarded on housing with the "time to buy a dwelling" index falling 2.5 per cent in July. The measure of house price expectations dropped 6.2 per cent, the lowest since early 2016.

"All up, a lift in consumer demand still looks unlikely near term," Mr Hassan concluded.

REUTERS